Tabernacle Choir Sings in Salt Lake Cathedral

“Tabernacle Choir Sings in Salt Lake Cathedral,” Ensign, July 1993, 79

Tabernacle Choir Sings in Salt Lake Cathedral

In a performance planned some two years ago, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir celebrated the favorable community relations that exist between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church in Salt Lake City.

Two years ago, the Catholic Church announced plans to renovate the Cathedral of the Madeleine, a historic building first dedicated in 1907. Tabernacle Choir president Wendell Smoot was authorized by the First Presidency to offer the choir’s services for a fund-raising concert.

“We received a call thanking us for our offer and asking us instead if we would celebrate the restoration when it was completed,” said Brother Smoot. “We were thrilled to be able to participate in the event. It was a magnificent experience.”

The restoration project was completed this year; the cathedral was officially rededicated in February, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert was planned for May 2.

Hundreds of people attended the choir’s performance in the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the choir’s first performance in that building. President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, attended the event, accompanied by his wife, Marjorie. Elders Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve were also in attendance.

“The visit of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to the cathedral was a landmark event and an occasion of notable cultural and religious significance,” said Monsignor M. Francis Mannion, rector of the Roman Catholic cathedral. “We were pleased that the leadership of the LDS Church made the event possible.”

The program for the evening reflected the culture of the Catholic Church, reported Jerold Ottley, choir director. Numbers included Bach and Gounod’s “Ave Maria” and Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers.” The choir also performed “Sanctus” from the Berlioz Requiem, a work they performed on their recent tour to the Holy Land. Tenor soloist for the number was Robert Breault, a member of the Catholic Church, who traveled with the choir on that tour to perform the Requiem. Soprano JoAnn Ottley also was a soloist during the evening’s concert. John Longhurst, Clay Christiansen, and Richard Elliot accompanied the choir.

After a standing ovation, the choir ended the concert with their trademark closing hymn, “God Be with You.”

The music for the evening was selected carefully in anticipation of the acoustics in the cathedral. “We considered the echo factor,” explained Brother Ottley. “We selected music that wouldn’t roll over itself, we drilled the choir to sing by sight rather than sound, and we used slower tempos than we might have otherwise. We also left spaces in the music where sound could echo and ring in the building.

“We were very much inspired by singing the music that we sang there.”

The Tabernacle Choir sang in the newly rededicated Catholic Cathedral of the Madeleine. (Photo by Boone Chen, courtesy of Deseret News.)